Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

20 February 1997 Edition

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Rescue plan would have killed hostages

By Dara Mac Neil
 Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori has never been one to let either common sense or reason interfere with his plans. So when rebels from the supposedly defunct Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) stormed the residence of the Japanese Ambassador in Lima before Christmas, Alberto was more than a little upset.

For the last five years Alberto has been telling anyone who will listen - and many who wouldn't - of how his regime defeated not one, but two, armed insurrectionary movements: MRTA and the Shining Path. (That they should have arisen in the first instance is not something that seems to have overly troubled Alberto).

Foolishly, somebody in the Japanese Embassy was convinced by Fujimori's waffle, convinced enough to throw a pre-Christmas bash at their Ambassador's residence.

And then the supposedly non-existent MRTA arrived - disguised as waiters and, doubtless, carrying trays laden with Ferrero Rocher. By 17 February they were still there, as were 72 hostages, ensuring that the siege now enters record books as the longest in Latin American history.

But if Alberto had his way, things would have been much different. Resolutely opposed to negotiating with the guerrillas Alberto had his army chiefs draw up a military alternative to ending the siege. The resultant plan was little short of brilliant.

It involved using specialised commando units to storm the residence and take the guerrillas by surprise. US forces `on loan' to Fujimori since the beginning of the siege, were to provide logistical backup. The planners estimated that the operation could be effected in just under seven minutes.

There were, however, some drawbacks. According to the planners the operation would have resulted in the deaths of ``at least 75 percent of those inside the residence.'' Overall, it was expected that the final death toll would have been ``between 80 and 90.''

There are only 72 hostages being held.

To date, wiser counsel has prevailed. That, however, probably has little to do with Fujimori. No doubt the Japanese - who number several high-ranking diplomats among the hostages - gently suggested to Fujimori that negotiations might prove less costly. Also, as the Ambassador's residence is technically Japanese territory, any such operation would require their approval.

Nonetheless, to date Fujimori has shown himself more than a little reluctant to engage in substantive talks. After two months, the only discussions taking place are of a preparatory nature, and they have yet to yield an agreed agenda for talks. Alberto is probably still hankering after the military option.

Alarming growth in child sex industry

The World Bank and associated bodies never tire of holding Chile up as an example to all `developing' countries. Under the direction of right-wing US economists the country has implemented a comprehensive programme of Thatcherite reforms over the last decade. The result, it is claimed, is a spectacularly booming economy on a par with any in the so-called First World.

That drastic cutbacks in government spending on health and education have further impoverished many Chileans is rarely mentioned.

And according to a recent study `modern' Chile is experiencing growth in all the wrong areas. Thus a government agency has revealed that more than 10,000 Chilean minors - under the age of 16 - are involved in prostitution.

The figure represents a doubling of the numbers of children estimated to be involved, since the last study was compiled in 1991 (It reported a figure of 5000).

The study reports that the children - many as young as 10 years of age - are involved in servicing `sex tourists' from abroad, and in the making of pornographic films.

Sex tourism is a growing problem the world over, `employing' an estimated 50 million children worldwide. More often than not, the tours are organised and arranged by travel agencies in richer, industrialised nations.

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